The last year has been filled with ironies for Bryan Murray. First, he was fired in January by the Washington Capitals and replaced by his brother, Terry. Then, last night, the Capitals won their 500th game as a franchise, with Bryan Murray -- the man behind the bench for 343 of them -- coaching the visiting Detroit Red Wings.

But this coincidence didn't faze Bryan Murray, who downplayed the brother-vs.-brother subplot of the game, won by the Capitals, 6-4.

"It just happened to be 499 {wins}," he said. "I don't know if it was anything different for them."

Joked Terry Murray, "I told Bryan before the game I wanted the two points."

Murray's return to Capital Centre elicited surprisingly little reaction from the man who spent 8 1/2 years behind the Capitals' bench.

"I honestly have to say I didn't think about it very much after the game started," he said. "I just tried to coach my team to play well. I really didn't think too much about the Capitals except about who was trying to match up with who."

Some of the Capitals, though, admitted Murray's presence made a difference.

"It's always tough when you play against a coach who's coached you," said center Dale Hunter.

"I know Terry was looking forward to it," said defenseman Kevin Hatcher. "I think it got all of the guys up and I think we went out and played a real good game."

Maybe the only thing more surprising than Bryan Murray's ambivalence was the disinterest shown by the 15,836 in attendance. In fact, the largest crowd response to anything he did came when he called a time out with 58 seconds left, which drew scattered boos.

When his name was announced during pregame introductions, there were neither audible boos nor cheers.

"I didn't even know {Murray would be here} until I got here," said Bob Wanex of Secretary, Md. "I forgot he was coaching the Red Wings."

"He was a good coach, but I thought it was time for a change," said Dan Gillespie, a construction supervisor from Waldorf, Md. "Getting no reaction was probably better than getting booed."

There were some Bryan Murray supporters on hand.

But one, retired firefighter Joe Thompson, didn't arrive in time for the introduction. "If I'd been here, I would have clapped," he said. "I think it's great. I'm happy to see him back. He can come back any time he wants."

Perhaps the happiest fan at the game was Alexandria carpenter Alan Richter, a transplanted Red Wings fan. "I think Bryan Murray is an excellent coach. We're glad to have him. . . . I thought he would get some kind of a positive reaction. I thought the fans would be happy about him being back."

The game was the first since Feb. 15, 1977, in which brothers coached against each other in the NHL. That day, Detroit's Larry Wilson and the Colorado Rockies' Johnny Wilson were behind the benches.

Bryan hopes the next matchup with Terry won't draw as much attention. "We've talked enough about it," he said, then he retreated to the visitors' locker room.